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You’ve gotten the offer, congratulations! Maybe you’re inclined to accept. It’s been a long search, the offer seems pretty good, and if you hesitate they might just change their mind, right? Not necessarily. Nine times out of ten it’s in your interest to pause, take a short time to reflect on the job itself, and depending on what you find negotiate to get what you want.

In that short window of time between their offer and your acceptance, you have an opportunity to further define the role to boost your chances of job success and satisfaction (as well as negotiate compensation, but that’s for another post). Skipping this reflection/negotiation phase might be a mistake for which you’ll pay dearly. Too many clients have come to me in desperate straits after taking the wrong job, because they ignored warning signs when accepting the offer. Remember, once you accept, there’s no more negotiation; you just have to perform.

Keep in mind that when you receive an offer, all the negotiation leverage switches instantly from them to you. They aren’t thinking about the other candidates anymore, and they want you to start yesterday. So unless you’re really obnoxious, you won’t lose the offer because of thoughtful but appropriately tough questions, or your desire to negotiate. If you approach the discussion with a can-do, positive, “we’re on the same side of the table” attitude, you’ll be fine. So consider whether:

  • The hiring manager’s expectations for what you’ll be delivering are aligned with yours and reflect what you want.
  • You’ll be given the resources to deliver on those expectations by the organization.
  • The organization is aligned with your new role. This means, for example, that no one else at the organization thinks you have their job, the company isn’t on the verge of going bankrupt, and the organization’s strategy will support your ability to succeed, not hinder it.

To help you in considering and negotiating these areas, arm yourself first with knowledge by conducting two analyses.

Personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis

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Search the internet for “SWOT” and you’ll find pages of articles and resources that explain how to use this tool for evaluating a business. But you can use it on yourself as well. With this analysis, you will build a self awareness that will tell you what to negotiate to minimize threats and maximize opportunities for success in the role. To conduct this analysis:

  • Brainstorm and write down both your strengths and your weaknesses as they relate to the role, in two columns. Be really candid with yourself. The more thoughtful you are in this data gathering step, the more you will understand what you need to be happy and successful in your new role.
  • From this list of strengths and weaknesses, come up with opportunities you can seize for success in your prospective job, and then potential threats to your achieving that success. The opportunities will be derived from your strengths, and the threats will come from your weaknesses.
  • Here’s an example. Julie was offered a job directing a sales team. She thanked the human resources person who contacted her for the offer, said she knew she would enjoy working for the hiring manager but needed a few days to think about it, and then immediately made an appointment with her prospective boss “to ensure we’re both set up for success.” To prepare for that meeting, she did her personal SWOT analysis. Among her many strengths, she identified “Building relationships that break down barriers between people and departments.” When it came to her candid assessment of her weaknesses, she included “Detailed technical analysis involving spreadsheets and data.”

    From this self-reflection, she came up with this opportunity: she could use her strength to address a problem she heard about in her interviews: a lack of collaboration between sales and the support areas of marketing and finance that affected the sales team’s ability to close deals and target the right audience. She would break down these barriers and build bridges that would give her sales team the tools they needed to boost results.

    Julie determined that a big threat to her success could come from her self-identified weakness; the substantial time she would personally need to spend on sales data analytics could sidetrack her from focusing on her building-bridges goal. After all, in the interviews she heard her predecessor praised for how he used data analysis to steer the sales team.

    Armed with this insight, in that meeting with her boss she made the case for focusing on her collaboration goal, and negotiated additional business analytics support so she wouldn’t have to personally spend time on it. She got what she wanted before accepting. The result: within the first year, she accomplished her goal, the sales team’s results correspondingly improved, and she received both a fantastic performance review and an unexpectedly big raise.

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    Organizational SWOT Analysis

    Now apply this same SWOT analysis to the organization. Is the organization as a whole set up to help your success or hinder it? Think about things like their competitors, the business environment, the organizational culture and structure, and the overall business strategy. Through this analysis, you may uncover warning signs or opportunities for you to be successful that you may be able to address in a negotiation.

    For example, one client, when thinking about the company structure, uncovered a threat from a potential overlap between his role and that of another department. He then addressed this issue in the negotiation.

    Another client, negotiating with a small company, asked for some more financial data on the company before accepting the role. She used the data in her SWOT analysis, and saw a risk in its strategy that prompted her to negotiate certain employment safeguards, including severance, before accepting.

    Now that you’ve done these assessment exercises, focus your negotiation on expectations, resources, and organizational alignment.

    Expectations

    Do you understand what your prospective boss thinks your success would look like after a year in the role? If not, make sure you have this conversation before accepting. Know what you’re signing up for, and be prepared to negotiate if you don’t like what you hear, as so much of your perceived success will be based on expectations.

    One of my clients was offered a job as a creative director. In his personal SWOT analysis he came up with an opportunity to play to his strength around developing creative concepts. But in the post-offer discussion, the hiring manager said she expected that the ad agency would continue to take the lead in creative concept development. As a result, my client negotiated a change in expectations so that he would have more of a role in concept development.

    Another client was offered a VP of Operations role. Based on interview conversations and the job posting, she thought that she would be focusing mostly on supply chain issues, an area that was both a strength and of interest. After receiving the offer, she sat down with the hiring manager to confirm expectations. She was surprised to find out that her prospective boss wanted her to de-prioritize supply chain in favor of internal process improvements. With this new understanding, she was much less interested in the role and decided to turn-down this offer, taking another one instead.

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    Resources

    Will you have the resources available to meet the hiring manager’s expectations, or are these expectations unrealistic? Let’s say, for example, that the hiring manager expects you to complete the roll-out of a new website by year-end. This is just the kind of work that you excel in, but you are concerned about the time frame.

    My client was exactly in this position. She waited until after the offer, though, to ask some tough questions, since before the offer they had all the leverage and might have offered the job to another candidate.

    For example, when she did her organizational SWOT analysis, she identified one threat to her success as not having the support she needs both from the Information Technology group and the marketing staff she would be inheriting; were they up to the challenge? She asked to meet with a couple of her staff members before accepting the offer. From these meetings, she learned about gaps in resources and capabilities. With this new insight, she negotiated a change in expectations around the timeline, so she had the time to build resources that could deliver the goal.

    Organizational Alignment

    Use the results of your Organizational SWOT Analysis to identify organization-related items you need to address before accepting the offer. Typical areas for negotiation include:

    • There’s too much risk to the survival of the position due to issues with company strategy or how the organization is positioned in the marketplace. If that’s the case, try to negotiate additional security, usually in the form of a severance agreement.
    • There’s an overlap with your role and responsibilities elsewhere in the organization. This situation has caused grief for clients who’ve come to me for help dealing with it after they’ve already started their new job. For example, one client came to me after a year of being undermined by a manager in another department who thought all along that her role should be under his purview. At his point the problem is much harder to solve. Don’t learn the lesson the hard way: Identify and negotiate-away the issue before accepting, or alternatively stay with your current job until a better offer comes along!
    • The organization’s strategy is at odds with the job’s goals. In this case, consider carefully whether you should be negotiating a revision in expectations or a guarantee of additional job security, or even whether you should take the job at all.

    Robert Hellmann is president of Hellmann Career Consulting and author of both Advanced LinkedIn and PEAK Presentations.

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